Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Movie Review - Rango

Rango - **1/2

Directed by:  Gore Verbinski

Starring (voices):  Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Stephen Root, Bill Nighy

Review:  Some movies are so visually appealing they just need to be seen.  ‘Rango’ is one of those movies.  It is quite amazing how far we have come with computer generated imagery.  The landscapes and textures in this movie is quite phenomenal.  I really didn’t know that any of this would be possible.  Most movies in this genre stilly try to have an animated look to their characters and surroundings, even though it’s CGI (‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and the ‘Toy Story’ franchise). 

This movie is not only enjoyable on the visual level though.  The movie follows a straight western storyline and has lots of well drawn very memorable characters.  The primary of which being Rango himself (Depp).  Rango is a lizard who has lived his life in an illusion of greatness, but has lived that life as a pet in a glass cage.  When he escapes from his see through prison he has no idea what to do with his new situation.  Where to go, what to eat, what to drink, he has all of these questions and no answers.  Right as Rango is about to give up, he encounters Beans, another lizard with problem freezing right in the middle of conversation.

 Beans takes Rango into town where he quickly makes the right friends, the wrong enemies, and finds himself the sheriff of this desert town.  While under his watch the towns water supply is stolen and the throw is thrown into a frenzy.  It is now up to Rango and his makeshift posse to find the water before the town becomes extinct.

The movie follows the path of many classic westerns before it.  There is no real quest here for our hero.  Rango is, much like the ‘Man With No Name’ before him, simply moving along.  He doesn’t know where he is going, where he is supposed to go, or even what to do when he gets there.  This is why becoming Sheriff of this town (the town’s name is Dirt) is such a welcome occupation for Rango, it’s something that gives him purpose.  Purpose is what Rango has wished for his entire life and has always wanted.  Has this been what he has been searching for and he didn’t even know it?

Upon the quest to find the town’s missing water they all warm up to Rango as their Sheriff and they begin to identifiy with each other.  Rango needs a purpose and the town needs somebody with a purpose to believe in.
Since Rango’s quest is never clearly defined it leaves the movie making us feel like it’s not really a story as much as it is a collection of events.  Since Rango didn’t set out to save the town and was seemingly thrown into this by accident, it has no sense of urgency and the movie loses a bit of itself without this indefinable presence.  The audience can’t help but feel as though they don’t have much stake in the events, despite how gorgeous they are to look at on film. 

The movie also seems to have a hard time deciding whether it wants to be for adults or for children.  I am a big champion of animation as a true art form that should be respected with any others.  With movies like ‘Avatar’, ‘Toy Story 3’, and ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ animated storytelling has taken a step forward.  No longer is it just for kids with sight gags and slapstick humor (although some of it is still there), these movies actually have solid production design, storylines, and character development.  However, this movie is stuck in the middle.  I am fine with Rango being an awkward lizard, but having him randomly bang his head or snatch a dragon fly with his tongue at random moments don’t add to the character for me and just seem to be in there for the kids.  I await the day when a movie fully commits as animated to being a film that gives us serious dramatic storytelling.

All in all, I would say this movie is worth your time simply for the visuals alone.  The story does not break new ground and it can get stale, but the animation is something to be treasured.

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